12/11/06 — Golfer of the Year: Kelli Forbis

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Golfer of the Year: Kelli Forbis

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on December 11, 2006 1:47 PM

There were countless thoughts running through Kelli Forbis' head.

She was competing in windy, freezing conditions at the N.C. High School Athletic Association Classes 1-A/2-A/3-A eastern regional women's golf championship at Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course, the same site where her father had suffered a heart attack the previous year. Now, she was walking up to the 18th hole trailing Wilson Fike's Amy Otteson by one stroke.

"Goldsboro Municipal has this thing on my mind," said Forbis. "I tried to not let the course bother me."

Forbis calmly pared the hole while Otteson bogeyed it, tying the two girls at 82.

Now she was in unfamiliar territory -- a sudden-death playoff.

"I had never been in a playoff," said Forbis. "I was so nervous."

To make matters worse, Kelli was hitting from hole No. 1, a par 5 she had double-bogeyed earlier in the round.

With her father and teammates watching on, Forbis birdied the hole to defeat Otteson and became Charles B. Aycock's first ever regional champion.

"It was really cool," Forbis said of winning the championship.

Kelli doesn't have the most intimidating figure. She stands at just 4-foot-11, which is part of the reason she got into the sport.

"Golf is the only sport that it doesn't matter what race you are, how much money you have or how big you are," said Forbis, who has only been playing the sport for four years.

Forbis' father, Mike, pushed her to get started in the sport and, with the instruction of Jack Snyder, she has flourished.

She began shooting 120 for 18 holes, and early frustration plagued her.

"You work your butt off and it's like you're not improving," said Forbis. "You definitely need patience."

Kelli's practice schedule consists of weights during the week, as well as time working on her short game. Then on weekends, Forbis hits the links, playing as many as 36 holes.

Now, Forbis' game has improved to the point where she was able to dominate the high school golf circuit for the past four years. She was undefeated the last two years and was able to lower her score to 72 for 18 holes and 34 for nine this past season.

This past season, Forbis finished ninth at the NCHSAA Women's Golf Championships. It was her best finish in four tries at the event.

With the success has come a list of accolades. She's been named Aycock's MVP the last four years as well as being named All-Eastern Carolina Conference during that span. Kelli was selected as the ECC Player of the Year the last two seasons, had the lowest scoring-average this past year and is the 2006 News-Argus Golfer of the Year -- the second year in a row she's won the award.

"It feels good. I'm excited," said Kelli upon hearing she was selected for the honor.

Forbis is preparing for her next big award, a high school diploma that she will receive upon graduating in January.

College is the next big stepping stone for Kelli. She wants to attend East Carolina University and one day become a nurse. Her main goal is to walk onto the Pirates golf team.

"I want to go somewhere that I can improve to be the best on the team, kind of like I did here," said Forbis.

For that to happen, Forbis must continue to improve her game -- especially her long game.

During the break in between high school and college, Kelli plans to work on that and other aspects of her game at Walnut Creek.

"The big thing is getting more consistent with my higher clubs," said Forbis, who drives an average of 210 yards from the tee.

One day in the distant future, Forbis would even like to compete in some amateur tournaments.

"I want to get an education first, but I wouldn't mind playing in them one day," she said.

Not a bad goal for a girl who didn't think she'd be playing golf today.

"I didn't think I'd stick with it, but now I'm really happy that I did," Forbis said.